They escaped from beneath the thumb of a Ugandan despot
Fleeing between gazes of men armed with machine guns
And appeared in my back alley. Brown skinned. Muslim.
My friend. My first love.
His soundtrack music now echoes from our TV screens.
They escaped from Soviet Russia during the brief window when
Jews were allowed to leave
And appeared in the junior high gym on the first day of school.
My best friend. Now in Geneva,
with the Humanitarian Commission for Refugees.
They escaped from Eritrea as it tore itself from Ethiopia
Newly weds running by night, sleeping through days
And appeared at my husband’s office, to defend children
Our good friends, first social work
Then labour mediator, helping opposites agree.
They’re escaping from Syria and the religious extreme,
Risking their lives for a chance of happiness and security.
Among the crowds, will we find
New friends making new lives
In our neighbourhood, where there’s safety?
I was pondering last night, that some of the most significant people in my life came to Canada as refugees. How different my life would have been had they remained in their home countries! While I would wish them never having to live the fear of their respective escapes, how blessed am I than Canada welcomed them, and how blessed is the country because of their labours here! They have each contributed greatly to society.
My mom’s first friend in her new community as a newly wed was a refugee from Germany who owned the apartment they rented as well as a business and other apartment buildings. I’ve taught students who were refugees from the civil war when Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia dissolved. Our country was not weakened by our welcome to these desperate people; it was strengthened.
We are all immigrants in this life.
All of us in North Americans, at least, unless we’re aboriginal!
True enough. I was thinking a bit wider, maybe, about our personal journeys. We start with ourselves, obviously, but curiosity, dealing with the world, and learning to love without reservation or possession, hopefully, lead us to new territory where we must reshape our personal culture.
In our old age we narrow again, I observed. Your world shrinks to your room, or the ache in your joints. Much as when you’re little, and your tumbles seem like great tragedies.
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This point can never be reiterated enough, especially in times like this when social hysteria tends to look for scapegoats. Thanks for publishing.
Thanks for sharing these great thoughts with us Shawn. A pleasure to read.
You’re most welcome.
This poem is in perfect timing with what the other countries are going through… Well put!
Thanks, Nicole. I appreciate you dropping by my blog!
How odd that the shrillest voices against welcoming immigrants are themselves Arab-Americans, Indian-Americans, Cuban-Americans.
That doesn’t seem to be the case here in Canada.